Righteous Gemstones season 2 is getting downright Succession-like
Both Succession and The Exemplary Gems, which simply debuted its 2nd season, make a pledge to the audience: this is how the world actually works. In Succession, this is quite uncomplicated as the audience enjoys the super-rich attack each other while smiling at the periodic shareholder’s conference.
With “I Speak in the Tongues of Men and Angels” and “After I Leave, Savage Wolves Will Come,” Gems strengthened what developer Danny McBride developed in season 1: a program where the jokes and the plot stand side-by-side, where singing and prayer can conceal murder and blackmail. Which world is the genuine one? For the Gemstones, they both are.
The combining of home entertainment and violence came directly into focus in season 2, which starts with checking out household patriarch Dr. Eli Gems’s (John Goodman) previous as a criminal wrestler referred to as Maniac Kid. One concern that emerged over the very first season of Gems was definitely, how in the world did a kindly old televangelist like Eli raise kids like Jesse, Judy, and Kelvin?
Season 2 starts to address that concern by recommending that Eli has actually been acting along with all the rest of them. After a classic flashback to Memphis where Eli is a thumb-breaking goon dealing with the side for a fumbling boos, the previous captures up with him in the kind of Junior (Eric Roberts), that manager’s kid who was type of a jerk at that time. Now he’s been humbled by his own daddy’s desertion, and pertains to Eli in memory of old times.
Junior has an ability that none of the Gemstone children seemingly posses: he can make Eli smile. After they emerge victorious from a parking lot brawl, Junior quickly becomes Eli personal confidante, coming even closer when he tells Eli that he wants to pray.
But for Jesse (McBride), his daddy’s sympathies are just more proof that the old man’s time has passed. The Gemstones are starting to enter the 21st century thanks to their new streaming service, GODD, but things aren’t moving fast enough for Jesse. His relationship with Amber (Cassidy Freeman) has healed, to the extent they now lead a church group dedicated to giving marriages a second chance. They’re a Christian power couple looking for someone to match their energy, and they think they’ve found some partners in Lyle and Lindy Lissons (Eric Andre and Jessica Lowe).
Like Junior with Eli, the Lissons have come quickly into Jesse and Amber’s lives promising to make them feel like who they really are, deep down inside. Eli’s a brawler who loves a fight and Jesse is eager for his ascension, and they just can’t help themselves. Andre perfectly matches McBride’s energy (as does Freeman), and seduces the two Easterners with a rocking church, line-dancing led by Joe Jonas, and ownership in an expensive Christian timeshare, Zion’s Landing.
But Zion’s Landing will cost them $10 million. While Jesse and Amber are rich, they’re not as rich as the Succession kids. They need their father’s help on this one, and not even Amber’s green dress can convince Eli to help out. When Eli tours the potential property, which is still under federal protection, he finds Jesse’s ambitions appalling, and finds just the right moment to humiliate him. The cruelty he first used with Junior is finding itself again.
He’s more focused on nosy New York reporter (Jason Schwartzman) Thaniel Block, who has a track record of finding dirt on megachurch pastors and is asking questions about his dearly missed wife Aimee-Leigh, of all people. The only saint among the Gemstones, Aimee-Leigh’s death hangs over Eli heavily. Asking about her is a strong provocation, asked by reporter who enjoys poking the bear.
The end of season 2’s second episode sets up further intrigue relating to Block, but it’s clear the Gemstones are not out of the woods. Righteous Gemstones builds a world that is as deep as it is funny. Kelvin’s (Adam DeVine) muscled God Squad, Judy’s (Edi Patterson) repeated request to make Block “hungry,” and the sheer brilliance of giving the word God another D are all delivered in rapid fire.
“I feel like the Gemstones honestly have more in common with corporations than they do with your average Christian,” McBride recently told FastCompany. But unlike the money driving Succession, faith is not something that can be measured in any quantifiable way. It’s invisible and can apparently come at any moment. It can be hustled out of you at the exact same time you’re hustling it out of someone else. It’s very easy to see the Gemstones as hypocrites, because they mostly are just that. However this hypocrisy doesn’t mean they lack in faith.
Watching them try to balance hypocrisy with genuine faith is intriguing no matter how much they fail or succeed, but chances are they’re going to fail a lot more.
New episodes of The Righteous Gems season 2 best on Sundays.
Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.